Thanks to the botched pullout of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, Joe Biden helped to ensure that hundreds of millions of dollars worth of weapons originally supplied to the Afghan army ended up in the hands of the Taliban fighters now in control. But as the New York Times reports, many of those guns aren’t staying with the Taliban. Instead, they’re now being offered for sale in shops and marketplaces.
In interviews, three weapons dealers in Kandahar said that dozens of Afghans have set up weapons shops in Afghanistan’s south, selling American-made pistols, rifles, grenades, binoculars and night-vision goggles. The equipment was originally provided to the Afghan security forces under a U.S. training and assistance program that cost American taxpayers more than $83 billion through two decades of war.
During the insurgency, the Taliban eagerly sought out American-supplied weapons and gear. But now much of that weaponry is being sold to Afghan entrepreneurs because Taliban demand has eased with the end of combat, the gun merchants said. They say that many gun dealers have smuggled the weapons to Pakistan, where demand for American-made weapons is strong.
When Joe Biden was serving as Barack Obama’s vice-president, the administration came under withering criticism for Operation Fast & Furious, a DOJ strategy that allowed thousands of firearms to reach the hands of Mexican drug cartels. That was a drop in the bucket compared to the firepower that’s now reaching the black markets of Afghanistan and Pakistan, though a Taliban spokesperson denies that any illicit arms sales are taking place.
In an interview with The New York Times, a Taliban spokesman, Bilal Karimi, said that weapons were not for sale. “I totally deny this; our fighters cannot be that careless,” he said. “Even a single person cannot sell a bullet in the market or smuggle it.”
He added that American-made weapons previously captured during the war “are all listed, verified and are all saved and secure under the Islamic Emirate for the future army.” (The Taliban refer to their government as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.)
I have no doubt that’s the official policy. Don’t forget, the Taliban went door-to-door confiscating legally-owned guns as they swept across the country, with the regime telling civilians that there was no need for them to be armed now that the Taliban was there to keep them safe. But while it’s easy for the Taliban’s leaders to announce that policy, it’s also not hard for the rank-and-file members to divert the American-made small arms into the black market. And with hundreds of thousands of rifles, pistols, grenades, and other light weapons left behind when the Afghan army surrendered, it’s impossible for the Taliban to keep track of it all.
Today, the merchants say their customers are Afghan entrepreneurs and ordinary citizens. These Afghans are buying coveted American-made weapons either to resell in Pakistan, for self-defense or to settle longstanding personal or tribal feuds.
Yeah, I’m sure none of them are ending up in the hands of groups like ISIS-K, al Qaeda, or any of the other 12 terror groups operating out of Pakistan.
“American-made weapons are in great demand, as they work very well and people know how to use them,” said a second gun merchant in Kandahar, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared the Taliban would close his shop.
The merchant said he had sold dozens of American-made pistols, rifles, ammunition and two-way radios since opening his shop about three months ago.
A third gun merchant in Kandahar, who asked not to be identified because the Taliban had warned him not to speak to the news media, said dealers had sold weapons as large as antiaircraft guns to the Taliban this summer. Now, he said, he sold American-made M4s and .50-caliber machine guns, as well as weapons manufactured by other nations, including rocket launchers and Kalashnikov assault rifles.
“The first choice is American-made, even though it is a little more expensive than the Russian-made,” the merchant said. “Light weapons such as guns and pistols are in great demand, as they are easy to transport and carry.”
So, while Joe Biden continues his efforts to target American gun owners and the firearms industry with new regulations and restrictions, his feckless policy in Afghanistan has led to booming business in the small arms black market and an untold number of firearms in the hands of terrorists and other bad actors.
You think the gun control lobby is going to have anything to say about this? Yeah, me either, though something tells me that these black market gun sales aren’t going to have a lot of background checks performed before buyers walk away with their purchases. I bet there are plenty of “large capacity” magazines available to go along with the select-fire rifles offered for sale in the markets of Kandahar Province, but I don’t think groups like Brady, Everytown, or Moms Demand Action will offer up the slightest bit of criticism for the inexplicable way Biden chose to leave Afghanistan and hundreds of thousands of U.S. weapons behind.